The RCZ is a well built and styling little GT car. The kind of style that has a real potential to become a classic collector’s item in a few years, just like the 504 Cabriolet and the 406 Coupé. However, when you look at the dashboard, there’s just one thing that makes it look quite dated today, even when it came out in 2010: The center control unit. Just look for yourself:
Clearly, some cars are best kept original and some just need ‘a little help’. How about keeping the original style but adding some of the modern day gadgets like a color screen and android technology with all the apps you can have on a smartphone. Speaking of which, this opens a gate to whole new world! What world? Find out by watching the below video. 🙂
After the successful implementation of the “Back in the Race” recovery plan by the end of 2015, which was launched in April 2014 and set to be completed in 2018, PSA Peugeot Citroën (who by the way recently changed their official name to Groupe PSA) released its new strategy plan “Push to Pass” on April 5th 2016. Now that the company is in solid financial and structural shape, it’s time to set the goals to the next step.
So what is this next strategic plan all about? Basically, PSA want to be ready for the so called automobile revolution, that has already started and will probably go on for the coming decade. In short, PSA has realized that they have to focus on their customers, more so than on the cars themselves – from VIN number to the person. In this day and age where everything is getting digital and connected, the companies that will be successful tomorrow are the ones that have access to customer information and know how to get the most out of them. Anyone heard of Big Data before? Obviously, PSA will continue building cars as their core business, but it sees its future as a mobility services provider, more so than just a car manufacturer.
Once again, the focus will shift from ‘just’ building and selling cars through their traditional dealership network, to a customer centered approach. By that PSA means using the the data provided by the customers through whatever connected device they are using. Hence, experience, rather than ownership will be important in the future. Providing mobility services due to their digital transformation.
What exactly does digital transformation mean? It means that most aspects of our life are being integrated into the internet of things: Every object and even living being will soon be connected to the internet in order to make their application more user-friendly and customer tailored. Houses (lighting, heating, access, oven,…), cars, watches, glasses, lawn mower, your dogs localization and even your puls monitor and many more things will be connected to the cloud where many people already have their agenda, photos, videos and social media accounts.
Let me give you an example: You go to bed in the evening and set your alarm clock on your smartphone for the following day. The smartphone picks up the traffic news in the morning, knows that the commute to work will be longer due to a traffic jam. It automatically sets the alarm clock earlier for you to have enough time to get ready and get to work on time. Coffee machine and toaster prepare breakfast as you switch off your shower. Your autonomous car will pick you up at the entrance door and drive you to work while you can prepare your meetings.
Granted, this is just an example of what it could look like and who knows when exactly that will be accessible to the broad majority of people. However, it shows that automobile corporations, such as PSA see where the trend is going and how the generations Y and Z will want to live. So far I haven’t said anything about the privacy issues and hacking risks that this technological evolution will bring, but that’s another subject.
Back to PSA
Anyway, let’s focus on PSA. Carlos Tavares, Chairman of the Managing Board, seems to have set his people in the right direction. Let’s take a more in-depth look at their plan and look at the five core transformation elements.
By 2021, PSA wants to be transformed into the mobility provider it has now set its strategy for:
From product to customer: Shifting the view from only building cars to the customer and it’s mobility needs.
From ownership to experience: Being a PSA customer doesn’t necessarily restrain it to car owners alone.
From car to mobility: People want the right mobility for any given time, which can mean renting a car, traffic infos, or even having access to carsharing models like Uber or Lyft.
From one business to a portfolio of businesses: In conclusion, putting the customer in the center of attention suddenly opens the door to a variety of businesses connected to mobility that include life facilitating apps and information.
Can PSA make it?
Whereas these new business models would have been unthinkable ten to fifteen years ago, it is now absolutely necessary for the car companies to diversify their activities within the digital and connected world if they want to survive. Technology companies like Alphabet (Google), Apple and Tesla are likely to become serious competitors in the future, as those elements will become the center of development.
But can PSA really make it? Four years ago the corporation was as good as bankrupt. Furthermore, Volkswagen and other major established manufacturers are not sleeping, either. On a contrary, albeit the problems VW is struggling with due to their so called Dieselgate affair, they are likely to be far ahead on that subject. However, as Carlos Tavares pointed it out several times, he doesn’t believe that size is the only way to succeed as an automotive OEM, you need to be profitable and flexible. I believe that they can make it and that this new, customer focused strategy is the only thing PSA has been missing during its entire lifetime. The products have been very good for most of the time, they just had a very bad customer relationship management and didn’t really listen to them.
I’ve been going to the Geneva Motor Show for almost as long as I know that I have a passion for cars. This year, though, was special. As mentioned in the first part, the last couple of shows did feel as exciting to me as they used to. This year however, I felt as though many car companies had risen from the ashes like a phoenix. Let’s take a look at a few of them
1) Volvo – Back to Krisprolls
Volvo had a huge, spacious stand, presenting the well known V40, their still very recent and second generation SUV XC90 and finally the much anticipated big S90 (sedan/saloon) and it’s estate version the V90. Never ever in over fifteen years of auto show visiting did I have any desire to explore the Volvo stand. This time, the S90 was the one that took my breath away. Like the XC90, it’s build according to the same clear cut and yet fluent and so typically Volvo design language. The inside, with it’s slim yet comfortable seats is a beautiful thing to be in. I admit, the quality of the interior buttons might not be quite at the top of what the industry has to offer, but it is very good.
Honestly, when the Chinese Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Ltd bought Volvo from Ford in 2009, I didn’t have very much hope for the iconic Swedish car maker. First of all, because the market was already very competitive and second of all, I was afraid that the Chinese wouldn’t keep the essence of what makes a Volvo quentessentially Volvo: their classic simple design combined with the highest safety standards. Strictly speaking, Volvo is pushing very hard to bring their autonomous driving system to the market. In 2017 (yes, that’s very soon!!), they are going to put 100 self driving cars on the streets of Gothenburg, Sweden to test their self driving system in real life conditions. Now that sounds all promising and exciting. I say let’s meet again in a year and check the system out. If the quality of the car and it’s electronic systems prove to be reliable and durable, Volvo just might be at the start of a big roll!
2) PSA – Back in the Race
PSA Peugeot Citroën have come a long way and are now showing clear signs of recovery after the crisis years of the early 2010’s. Carlos Tavares, the Chairman of the Managing Board since March 2014 has been working hard on pushing his “Back in the Race” program to make PSA financially fit again, built up DS as a standalone premium brand and differentiate the brand positioning clearly between Peugeot, Citroën and DS.
I admit, having grown up around Peugeot and Citroën cars, I tend to be a bit subjective about this group and am pleased to see they are showing clear signs of recovery. PSA’s 2015 annual report says that they made a group loss of € 555 mio by the end of 2014. Only one year later they had achieved a profit of € 1’202 mio. This is amazing. Tavares himself announced on an interview in February on the French radio channel RTL that PSA is now completely debt free and that they were giving their French workforce an extra bonus of around € 2’000 per employee.
This is a nice gesture and a sign of relieve for the entire group. However, the hard work isn’t over yet. The crucial thing for them to succeed will be keep the momentum and continue working just as hard on their three brands and invest in future technologies and market trends.
In short, Peugeot has rejuvenated its model range. During the press conference Peugeot’s CEO Maxime Picat announced that they would be presenting four more SUVs for the global market. Connectivity and electrification via hybrid models will be other major investment area for the coming years. I was glad to get the confirmation for a road going version of the 308 R Hybrid concept. It is based on the 308 GTi and enhanced with two electric motors of each 115 hp, producing a total of 500 hp.
When it comes to Citroën’s future model range, they still keep their cards pretty close to their chest. Of course, they presented the all new electric E-Méhari, which they developed together with conglomerate Bolloré. All we know for sure is that they will continue to bring new models that follow the “Créative Technologie” spirit of the successful C4 Cactus; cars who simply make you feel good. The brand new C3 is set to be presented at the Paris Motor Show this september. I’m hoping to see a road going version of the Aircross concept next year and am curious to see what they will come up to replace the aging C4 and C5. Citroën’s hydropneumatic suspension is set to retire together with the C5 but Citroën CEO Linda Jacksonhas already announced a brand new revolutionary suspension technology for 2017.
Finally, DS is the little and young brand that has yet to prove what it’s made of. They just finished restyling the existing model range: The little hot hatch DS 3 has recently lost its Chevron and adopted the “DS Wings” front, as well as the same interior updates as the DS 4 & 5 regarding touch screen and Mirror Link / Car Play smartphone connectivity. The entire range does however start to show it’s age, although it isn’t really that old. The DS 3 & 4 were launched in 2010, followed by the DS 5 in 2011. The mentioned facelifts have also given them new engines and gearboxes. Nevertheless, I can’t wait what they have planned to bring in the future as DS’ CEO Yves Bonnefont announced during the DS press conference that the range will be made out of six globally sold cars by the end of 2020. The clock is ticking!
I do however have high hopes for the brand. The stunning all electric E-Tense concept car they presented almost looks like it could be mass produced as is. Obviously, they will probably focus on SUVs, hatchbacks and saloons/sedans first, but the important things we have to see here are the technology elements that should be carried over to the production cars. I believe that the early involvement in the young but steadily more popular Formula E with the DS Virgin Racing Team is a statement in the right direction.
3) Opel – Love your car
Opel is a car brand I usually don’t follow with much interest. But as I was walking through their stand I thought that their entire model range looked really good! The Insignia has been with us since 2008 and slightly redesigned in 2013. The brand new generation is bound to hit the roads in late 2017. The current model still looks up to date, though. So does the rest of the range: The Astra, it’s topless sister Cascada, the Adam and it’s even smaller brother Karl – a blend of fresh and colorfol models. Sure, there fit and finish is not best in class but is good and you know what? They present themselves as what they are: A mass producer of cars for the middle class, without pretending to be a Rolls Royce competitor.
Furthermore, the Opel GT concept is probably one of the highlights to remember from this year’s Geneva Motor Show: Small, simple, elegant and desirable!
4) Fiat and Alfa Romeo
After Sergio Marchionne made Fiat and Chrysler merged in 2014 following Chysler’s bankruptcy, the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) concentrated it’s efforts on Jeep and Chrysler. With the exception of the hugely successful Fiat 500 and subsequent 500X, the Fiat model range was basically non existend. Sure, some Chrysler models were garnished with a Fiat badge but that didn’t fool anyone. The same story happened to Alfa Romeo. In recent years, the Guiletta and the MiTo were pretty much all Alfa had to offer. Of course there was and still is the prestigious 4C, but that’s more an image booster than a big seller.
Today I’m glad to see that they have finally brought the Alfa Romeo Giulia and the more sporty Giulia Quadrifoglio. Fiat is getting back to the roots also, with the Tipo and a slightly redesigned Mazda MX-5 named the 124 Spyder.
So, the 2016 Geneva International Motor Show at the Palexpo exhibition center closes it’s doors at the end of this weekend. Although I consider myself as a regular visitor of the show, I got a bit bored in recent years: Lots of people, lots of noise, it’s always hot and there were not that many interesting cars, which of course is a purely subjective point of view. 😉 Anyway, I won tickets at a DS AutomobilesFacebook game (thanks DS!) and decided to give Geneva one more chance!
So how can I describe this 86th edition of the Geneva International Motor Show? First of all, electric cars are getting mainstream and cool. A couple of years ago, if you looked at the electric cars available, they were still small, not very sophisticated and with the exception of Tesla Motors, none of the established car brands had one that would just come of the production line right away. Now that we are in the second half of the 2010’s, the revolution of the automobile industry has finally kicked in and we are witnessing a fast-paced change of technologies and behaviors. Porsche already presented their E-Mission in Francfort last year, Peugeot just green lighted the 500 hp 308 R Hybrid, even Morgan made an electric version of their iconic Threewheeler! Everyone is living the unleaded liquid in the dust and fills up with some electrons!
1) Paradigm shift in the car industry
I’m not sure I should mention this at the beginning of the article, but this motor show showed that Tesla is spot on with their cars and philosophy: electric cars that look and drive just like any other ‘conventional’ cars, but are in sync with the generation Y‘s lifestyle. With every element of our life becoming more and more connected (smartphone, cloths, housing), the car is just one element of the equation that has to follow the trend if it wants to survive in the jungle. Why is Tesla doing it right? Not only are they at the forefront of electric drivetrains, but all of the functions of the car are piloted using their big and very intuitive touch screen, that is getting updated regularly. The days where you bought a car and had to physically go to a dealer to get it updated and pay a lot of money for it are counted. Minor bug fixing or even recalls are sent from Tesla to their cars and it updates itself.
The established car companies will have to make a paradigm shift. Yes, the automotive OEM will get more information on their cars in real time, but to some extent the dealers will be taken out of the equation. In essence, a car will soon be completely working like smartphones already do today: Their is an update for a certain application / function of the car, you get a notification and update it – wireless and for free. And with the software evolving rapidly, customers want those updates to be on the car as well and have the different interfaces communicate with each other. So the car you buy today will still be appealing as a used car in six years time.
Tesla started it, but all the other ones will have to follow that (r)evolution. Many car companies are setting up offices in Silicon Valley for that reason. It’s not the only reason and of course, because they are all developing autonomous drive modes. But again, that is all linked with each other. Gilles Vidal, designer of Peugeot made a clear statement on this toping during an interview with Renaud Roubaudi of POA. Basically, he says that “the automobile is one brick of a world in which everything will be connected and evolve in the same time. What people want in their daily life, be it their house, their objects or their car, is that the renewal of those things will have to be fast. And since everything will have to be connected, the auto industry, which is currently one of the slowest industry in the world in terms of developing a new car, will have to become hyper adaptable, software but also hardware-wise.” Check out the interview. His statement starts at around 15:00 min.
2) A Motor Show is no longer a must
There is another paradigm shift I noticed on this years’ Geneva show: MINI was nowhere to be seen. Usually, being a brand of the BMW Group, MINI always shared it’s stand with BMW. This year, BMW had the entire space just for themselves, and it did look like there was something missing. Went I asked them where MINI was, they confirmed me that they decided not to come anymore, that it was part of their strategy. Sadly, all they could give me was a small brochure of the MINI model range. 😀
So what’s my point? The media already reported in late 2015 that MINI would skip the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit as well as the show in Geneva. Jaguar Land Rover would also not be a part of the NAIAS in 2016. The fact is that customer behavior have changed and car companies, no matter how premium they are, have to spend their money wisely. Auto shows cost a lot and don’t necessarily generate much money in return. Many years ago, people used to buy their new car on the auto show. Today, dealerships are getting bigger and better equiped in demo cars. So basically you’re better of checking out the car you’re intersted in there and get a test drive in the same go, which you can’t at the auto show. Moreover, with customer relationship management and big data getting more and more important, car companies start creating regional and smaller events that reach the target audience more effectively than just a car show for everybody. People want the companies to come to them and not the other way round. If you want to sell me your product, you come to me, I don’t want to take the hassle to go to you.
What does this mean for the future? As some brands have started, others are likely to follow that trend and pick just a few auto show. Like any other industry, the automotive industry constantly has to ask itself if their investments are still effective and if so, how they can increase their efficiency. After all, the customer is always right.